Jean Todt has said he hopes that the campaign for the FIA presidency can maintain its democratic integrity, in the wake of controversial comments by Ari Vatanen, currently his only rival in the election.
Vatanen spoke out this week suggesting that the FIA was funding and supporting Todt's campaign by flying him around the world. Those comments have been strongly criticized by the FIA Foundation
, an independent charity, which has written to Vatanen to express its disappointment about his stance and made clear that his claims were wrong, in its view.
The Foundation clarified that Todt had traveled recently to Africa accompanying his partner, the actress Michelle Yeoh, who had been speaking at a road safety conference in her role as the global ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign. This campaign is coordinated by the FIA Foundation, of which Todt is a trustee.
Although according to his campaign spokesman Todt is reluctant to become involved in the trading of negative soundbites, in the wake of Vatanen's remarks, he has made a short statement on the matter – saying he hopes that the election campaign does not turn personal and can focus on the real issues.
"We are three months away from the election of a new president of the FIA," said Todt on Wednesday. "This period gives the FIA membership an important opportunity before making their choice to reflect on the Federation's achievements, its future goals and challenges.
"I would hope that all candidates will conduct their campaigns with dignity and avoid personalizing the issues or engaging in the spreading of disparaging or false allegations.
"I am very proud of the voluntary work Michelle Yeoh has done as the global ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign. To gain an accurate insight into Michelle's role I would encourage everyone to watch the film 'Turning Point' and see for themselves her contribution to improving global road safety.
"In future, I hope everyone can stick to the issues and respect the integrity of this democratic process."
Yeoh's work on road safety has received widespread international support, and helped result in the documentary "Turning Point" (which can be seen here http://www.makeroadssafe.org/Pages/home.aspx
) that has received widespread coverage around the world.